Large Red Damselfly - Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Adult size

Length: 33 - 36mm   Hindwing Length: 19 - 24mm

Distinguishing features

One of two red damselflies, the Large Red Damselfly is more robust, has black legs, is very widely distributed and one of first damselflies to emerge in spring. Females occur in 3 variations.

Identification - for help with terms see glossary

Mature males

Abdomen is a deep red with 3 narrow black bands on segments 6, 7 & 8. They have red antehumeral stripes on thorax and red eyes. Legs are all black.


Immature males

Resemble pale versions of adults: have paler red abdomen, yellow antehumeral stripes and brownish eyes.

Mature females

Occur in 3 forms; typica have thick black bands on segments  6 - 9, fulvipes has black bands on segments 7 – 9. Both have red antehumeral stripes. The form melanotum is predominantly black along the abdomen with small areas of red and yellow. Has yellow antehumeral stripes.

Immature females

Tend, like immature males to be paler in colour with brownish eyes and yellow antehumeral stripes on thorax.


Can be found in almost any still water habitat and can tolerate a wide range of conditions from acid bogs to ponds, ditches and canals.


Males will be very common resting on bankside vegetation, are generally territorial and are aggressive towards other males. Oviposition will occur in tandem where the male will guard the female.

Status and distribution

Very common throughout the UK.  Locally abundant in preferred habitat. Very common across a diversity of sites in Dorset.

Flight period

Main flight period is mid April to August. Numbers peak in June & July.

Similar species

The only other red damselfly is the Small Red Damselfly which is smaller, has red legs and red eyes and is restricted to acidic waters such as heathland, bogs and mires.

More photographs

Click on the photos below to enlarge...


Mature Male

Mature Female typica form

Mature Female fulvipes form 

Mature Female melanotum form 

All photographs by kind permission & © of Ken Dolbear unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.